Thursday, May 24, 2012


They always say "chicks dig scars". I will admit, I've always found scars sexy on men. Like the guy who plays Prince Charming on "Once Upon A Time", I totally love the scar he has on his chin. That little scar enhances his look. Makes him more real.

I think that is the same for all scars. They make us real. They hold our stories, are evidence of a life we have lived that wasn't a fairy tale.

I have a crescent scar on my left index finger. A reminder of a summer weekend long ago. I was a teenager, chopping rhubarb for my favorite ice cream topping--strawberry rhubarb sauce--and my mother walked in and scolded me for using such haphazard strokes. So I started cutting "properly" and promptly cut my finger down to the bone. It was a clean cut, very straight. My dad, the nurse, decided no need for a hospital and stitches, so he just bandaged it up really, really tight. It was numb for the longest time and after it healed, I would find myself running my thumb over it all of the time. There is still a bump there. It is smaller now. The finger still doesn't have all of the feeling back. It is a reminder to me. I've never cut myself like that again.

Then there are the scars that were placed purposefully. DQ's body is riddled with scars, evidence of the many struggles she has faced in her young life. She has the obvious zipper scar down her chest that doesn't look very zipper like any more since there are three intersecting lines, each various shades of white. She has many smaller, puckered scars from where chest tubes had been placed to drain fluid following her several surgeries. She has a scar on her neck where the surgeon sliced through at the beginning of her last surgery to be prepared in case they accidentally cut DQ's coronary artery when getting to her heart (she now has a gortex shield over her heart to prevent such a possibility in the future).  DQ's arms and legs are covered in small scars from blood draws, IVs, arterial lines, and catheters.

I don't know if I ever saw DQ without these scars. I know we don't have any pictures of her chest before it was cut open. It is who she is.  We call the scars DQ's special scars. We want her to wear them with pride for all that they mean: her badges of honor that declare to the world that DQ has fought to live this glorious life. She has no shame of them. In fact, she will tell you the zipper scar is where the doctors fixed her special heart.

Yet, because scars do tell stories, people often read them without asking any questions. Assumptions abound when it comes to scars.  And we all know what assuming does.

I remember one Saturday afternoon, a long time ago, when TRex was at swimming class and I had taken DQ to McDonalds for a special lunch. As I was waiting in line to get food, DQ raised her shirt over her head (as many toddlers do). All of the people looked at her, then at me with shock. I swear that the woman behind the counter was ready o call protective services on me. She asked me what happened to my baby. I explained that she had had open heart surgery and then everyone averted their eyes and went on their way.

Ever since then, I've been more self-conscious of DQ's physical scars.  I don't like it. That is not the story I want for my baby. I try not to let it show, but my fear of what people think is there in the background. Always.

Harder still are the scars that can't be seen. I've written previously about the scars numerous hospital stays has left on DQ--her fear of doctors and nurses coming to her in the night to poke and prod and test and torture. And TRex's scars from having his sister taken away to the hospital and knowing she might not come home.  What stories do those scars hold? How I do I help my children tell those stories without the scars being defined by someone else?


  1. Powerful post. I fun stories for the outside scars. Inside ones are a bit different. I'm not sure if what you are asking is possible, matters. People will define and judge us, what matters is how we define and judge ourselves. 

  2. Of course, you are right. People will define and judge us. The question really is how do we teach our children what you say matters: to define and judge ourselves, without letting the outside lens of others contort their view. That is the trick for all parenting, I guess. Getting our children to be strong enough to know who they are and not letting the world bend them into something else without good reason.

    Thanks for your comment. I really appreciate it!


Having a child with a CHD is like being given an extra sense---the true ability to appreciate life. Each breath, each hug, each meal is a blessing when you've watched your child live off a ventilator, trapped in an ICU bed, being fed through a tube. Each minute is a miracle when you've watched your child almost die and come back to you.
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